“Ask me why I’m bald.” These are the simple words on the bold yellow pins that the St. Baldrick’s Foundation fundraiser shavees proudly wear to invite questions about their newly bald heads. By sacrificing their own hair, these individuals stand in support of everyone affected by “kid cancers,” and seek to educate people about the Foundation’s work.
St. Baldrick’s started on March 17, 2000, when three philanthropists encouraged 19 people to shave their heads at the Foundation’s annual St. Patrick’s Day party to raise donations for the Children’s Oncology Group. The dedicated trio beat their fundraising goal of $17,000 by more than $80,000, raising a total of $104,000. This successful beginning got the ball rolling. In 2012, St. Baldrick’s shavees reached another milestone by raising $30 million helping the Foundation reach $100 million.
St. Baldrick’s advocates for specialized treatments for all young people affected by cancer, including: infants, children, teens and young adults. The Foundation also works on addressing funding needs for more rare forms of cancer that afflict people in these age groups. Additionally, St. Baldrick’s promotes continuing treatments for young cancer survivors who are at an increased risk of experiencing other chronic diseases later in life, which can be brought on by cancer treatments.
My personal interest in St. Baldrick’s mission is the organization’s commitment to supporting treatment by pediatric oncologists for young adults battling cancer. According to research from the Foundation, this approach can increase a patient’s survival rates by approximately 30 percent. Indirectly, it can also mean more support for a patient’s family. That is why, on March 28th, I donned the signature green St. Baldrick’s t-shirt, and with a little bit of fear watched as puffs of my black curls fell to the ground and mixed with hair from others who had shaved their hair before me.
I committed to be a shavee, because, as a young person in college, I found what I feared was breast cancer. What was scary for me was crippling for my parents. Luckily, a lumpectomy proved my tumor was benign; however, I still regret what my family had to go through.
I am proud of my new look, but remember how terrified and embarrassed I felt in college considering the possibility that among other things I could lose my hair. Now I am happy that my bald head attracts attention. I feel lucky this was a choice, and I can speak candidly about why I wanted to show my support in this way. Every day since, I have had the opportunity to spread the word about St. Baldrick’s very important work, with the hope that eventually no kids will have to experience the fear of cancer.
So please, ask me why I’m bald!